When I was between the ages of 3 and 5 we lived in a neighborhood where a lot of retired people lived and I loved to visit them. The little house we lived in sat on an alley and was surrounded with trees except for the side by the alley. The street to the north of the alley was lower than our house and the street to the south was higher; with a small rise up to the street.
I could slip away from the house unseen because of the trees and the bushes that were on the little hill and before mom knew it I would be on the sidewalk to the south.
No one back then had air conditioning so the windows were always open and you could tell what everyone was baking that day. I learned there were a couple of women that baked cookies several times a week and I would search out the house with the wonderful smell coming out of the windows.
When mom had a couple of nights off during the week from her telephone operator job, 11PM to 7AM, we spent the days together instead of me staying with Grandmother.
The days we spent at home together, she was usually cleaning the house so I was free to play outside in my favorite spot and to search the neighborhood for fresh cookies.
By 10AM I was already up the hill and running down the sidewalk with my nose in the air like a blood hound, my partner in crime, Brownie my cocker spaniel, following behind me. I am sure he knew it was a bad idea but never left my side.
As soon as I found the cookies I would go to the door and knock. The little ladies were always glad to see me, or so it seemed, and would let me in.
Brownie would sit down on the front porch and wait patiently for me to come out. I would follow the lady to the kitchen where a batch of cookies was fresh out of the oven; still on the cookie sheet.
She would put my milk in a tea cup and then pour herself a cup of tea, and we would have a tea party with warm cookies. When the milk in my tea cup was gone I would tell her I had to go home.
She always gave me a cookie to take with me and I would thank her for the tea party and go back to the front door. After letting the screen door bang shut behind me I would give Brownie the extra cookie and we would hit the sidewalk again in search of more cookies.
About the time I was sitting at the second house eating cookies, mom would discover I was gone, but knew to start looking on the street south of the house. When she left the yard she would tear off the skinniest little branch she could find from a bush or tree and walk up the hill to the street.
She would start down the sidewalk on the north side of the street because I never crossed the street. It was not hard for her to find me because Brownie would be sitting on the front porch waiting for me. So when she found him she found me.
If she couldn’t see him because I had entered the side or back door, she would call his name and he would come to see what she wanted. When he went to her and sat down in front of her, she would say, “Where is Sandra?” He would jump up, turn on his heel and lead her straight to the house I was in.
Mom would knock on the door and the lady that I was having a tea party with would give me a wink, then a couple of cookies because she knew who it was. Then she would answer the door.
Mom would come to the kitchen, grab my hand and drag me from the chair and out of the house. During our retreat from the house she would apologize to the lady because I had begged her for cookies.
The lady always told mom she loved having me stop for a tea party, but mom would say, “She is not to leave the yard without permission and is not supposed to beg for cookies either”. The lady would give me a smile as we exited the door because she knew I was in big trouble.
I knew the second we were on the sidewalk and started the walk home that I would get it because I could see the switch in Mom’s other hand. She would apply that thin branch (that whistled as she swung it through the air) to my bare legs with each step all the way home.
Brownie could only follow along behind us, very happy that he was a dog, because he wasn’t in trouble. He also knew he would sit beside me after the spanking while I cried with my arms around his neck and my head next to his.
But even the sting of the switch did not deter me from my visits to the older ladies kitchens in the neighborhood. When I got a chance for a tea party the temptation was just too much for the original cookie monster to pass up; I would be up the hill and running down the sidewalk searching for warm cookies.
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